OTC MedicationWith the cold and flu season fast-approaching, it’s important for parents and teachers to discuss the dangers of over-the-counter (OTC) medication with their tweens and students. In 2011, poison centers managed over 260,000 exposure cases in children ages 6 to 19; 143,000 cases involved medication errors and misuse.

Recently, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), and children’s education company, Scholastic, collaborated to aid in this important conversation.

The partnership between AAPCC and Scholastic called, The OTC Literacy Program provides literature and infographics to classrooms across the United States. The information is targeted to tweens (5th and 6th grade), who frequently self-administer assorted OTC medications from cold tablets to ibuprofen.

With the increase in latchkey kids, some home alone before school and after, the focus is on education. According to an OTC Literacy Medicine Fact, most adolescents think OTC drugs are safer than those prescribed by a doctor. This is a dangerous assumption.

Part of the information covered in the classroom literature focuses on basic safety rules for all medications:

Top 5 OTC Literacy Tips:

  • Tweens should only use OTC medicines with permission and supervision from their parent or guardian.
  • Always read and follow the Drug Facts label, and never take more than what’s directed on the label.
  • Know what is in your medicine and never use more than one medicine with the same active ingredient.
  • Always use the dosing device that comes with medicine. Never use household measurement tools like teaspoons, tablespoons or kitchen spoons.
  • Return medicines up and away and out of sight after every use.

On the Scholastic website, The OTC Literacy page provides a bounty of free information for parents including infographics that can be printed out for discussion and future reference. One particularly helpful sheet titled, “What’s on the Label,” provides a full-color drug label with detailed sections explaining dosage, ingredients, warnings and other vital information.

For more information, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website also has a page titled, “Medicines In My Home,” that provides drug safety information for parents and teens, including videos you can watch together about OTC medications.